By David Cohen
The Jewish community of Toco Hills is fighting to stay united in the face of competing annexation bids from two cities.
Young Israel of Toco Hills hosted the second of three scheduled community meetings on the dueling cityhood proposals Sunday night, Jan. 11, four days after the first meeting and four days before the last.
Toco Hills is facing proposals that could divide the neighborhood along LaVista Road or keep it together within or outside a city. Divided jurisdiction would complicate municipal services, zoning laws and school systems for the Orthodox Jewish community of nearly 3,000 people.
In response to the proposals, 277 Toco Hills residents have signed a petition for the entire community to be included in the proposed new city LaVista Hills. They have succeeded in getting most of the community added to the proposed city map, something that LaVista Hills activist and Congregation Beth Jacob member Josh Kahn says would be best for the community.
“LaVista Hills would be more responsive to the community’s concerns, especially zoning and road policies that encourage walkable schools and synagogues,” Kahn said. “We all have friends and family in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs, have seen the success of those new cities, and want the same responsiveness and efficient use of our tax dollars.”
The proposed LaVista Hills would encompass most of the land between Interstates 85 and 285 in Dekalb County. The southern border of the city would be south of LaVista Road and thus include almost all of the local Jewish community.
The Orthodox community in Toco Hills is the largest south of Baltimore and north of Miami with four synagogues, three Jewish private schools and four kosher supermarkets within one square mile.
The other proposal is for part of Toco Hills to join the city of Atlanta, possibly splitting the community down LaVista Road. In a survey conducted by the Merry Hills neighborhood in mid-December, 87 percent of those who favored incorporation preferred the LaVista Hills proposal, while 12 percent chose Atlanta. Remaining unincorporated, the subject of the third meeting, also is possible.
“I think it’s certainly ideal that we are viewed by the county and government as one community because we really operate together,” said Rabbi Adam Starr of Young Israel. “There’s a lot of confusion out there, and people are really struggling to understand what’s going on.”
Any cityhood bid would have to pass the Georgia General Assembly, which convened Jan. 12. Legislative success would lead to a referendum as early as May or June, with an approved new city starting as early as 2016.
Let your state legislators know how you feel about cityhood:
• Rep. Mary Margret Oliver, 404-377.0485, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Rep. Howard Mosby, 404-656-0287, email@example.com.
• Sen. Elena Parent, 404-490-3762, firstname.lastname@example.org.